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Encyclopedia > Nikephoros II
Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas

Nikephoros II Phokas or Nicephorus II Phocas (Greek: Νικηφόρος Β΄ Φωκάς, Nikēphoros II Phōkas), (c. 912969), was a Byzantine Emperor (963-969) whose brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of Byzantine Empire in the tenth century. Nikiforos Fokas (Greek: Νικηφόρος Φωκάς) is a municipality in the Rethymno Prefecture, Crete, Greece, named after the 10th century Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II. Population 6,599 (2001). ... ImageMetadata File history File links Nikifor. ... ImageMetadata File history File links Nikifor. ... Events Orso II Participazio becomes Doge of Venice Patriarch Nicholas I Mysticus becomes patriarch of Constantinople Births November 23 - Otto I the Great Holy Roman Emperor (+ 973) Abd-ar-rahman III - prince of the Umayyad dynasty Deaths Oleg of Kiev Categories: 912 ... Events December 11 - John I becomes Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. ... This is a list of Byzantine Emperors. ...


Early exploits

Nikephoros Phokas belonged to a Cappadocian family which had produced several distinguished generals, including Nikephoros' father (Bardas Phokas), brother(Leo Phokas), and grandfather (Nikephoros Phokas the Elder), who had all served as commanders of the field army (domestikos tōn skholōn). He was born about 912. For other uses, see Cappadocia (disambiguation). ... Bardas Phokas (c. ...

Nikephoros joined the army at an early age. He was appointed the military governor of the Anatolikon Theme in 945 under Emperor Constantine VII. When his father, Bardas was wounded in battle in 953, Nikephoros was promoted to supreme commander on the eastern frontier. In the war with the Abbasids he began with a severe defeat in 954, from which he recovered in the following years by victories in Syria, starting in 957. From the accession of Emperor Romanos II in 959, Nikephoros and his younger brother Leo were placed in charge of the eastern and western field armies, respectively. In 960, at the recommendation of the influential minister Joseph Bringas, Nikephoros was entrusted in leading an expedition to Crete, and, storming Candia after a 9-months' siege, he wrested the whole island from the Muslims in 961. He was denied the usual honor of a triumph, only permitted a mere ovation in the Hippodrome. (Norwich, p. 961) he returned to the east with a large and well-equipped army. In the campaigns of 962-963 by brilliant strategy he conquered the cities of Cilicia and advanced into Syria where he captured Aleppo in collusion with his nephew John Tzimiskes, but made no permanent conquests. It was on these campaigns he earned the sobriquet "The Pale Death of the Saracens". During the capture of Aleppo, the Byzantine army took possession of 390,000 silver dinars, 2,000 camels, and 1,400 mules. Constantine and his mother Zoë. Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus, the Purple-born (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Ζ΄ Πορφυρογέννητος, Kōnstantinos VII PorphyrogennÄ“tos), (Constantinople, September 905 – November 9, 959 in Constantinople) was the son of the Byzantine emperor Leo VI and his fourth wife Zoe Karbonopsina. ... Abbasid provinces during the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid Abbasid was the dynastic name generally given to the caliphs of Baghdad, the second of the two great Sunni dynasties of the Muslim empire. ... Romanus II (939 - 963) succeeded his father Constantine VII as Byzantine emperor in 959 at the age of twenty-one, and died, poisoned, it was believed, by his wife, Theophanu in 963. ... Joseph Bringas was an important Byzantine official under Emperor Romanus II. He opposed the rise to power of Nicepheros II Phokas and was removed from influence due to his failure to stop Nicephoras rise. ... For other uses, see Crete (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Heraklion (disambiguation). ... A Roman Triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly honour the military commander (dux) of a notably successful foreign war or campaign and to display the glories of Roman victory. ... The Hippodrome today, with the Walled Obelisk in the foreground Obelisk of Thutmosis III The base of the Obelisk of Thutmosis III showing Theodosius the Great as he offers a laurel wreath to the victor from the Kathisma (emperors box) at the Hippodrome The Delphi Tripod known as the... The Kingdom of Cilician Armenia, 1199-1375. ... Location of the governorate of Aleppo within Syria Aleppo (Arabic: [ḥalab], ) is a city in northern Syria, capital of the Aleppo Governorate. ... Ioannes, protected by God and the Virgin Mary. ... This article is about the chemical element. ... A five-dinar note featuring Saddam Hussein The word Dinar (in Arabic and Persian: دينار) traces its origin back to the Roman currency, the denarius (pl. ... For other uses, see Camel (disambiguation). ... In its common modern meaning, a mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. ...

Early in his life Nicephoros had married Stephano. She had died before he rose to fame, and after her death he took an oath of chastity. This would create problems latter on.

Accession to the throne

On March 15, 963, Emperor Romanos II unexpectedly died at the age of twenty-six. The cause of his death is uncertain. Both contemporary sources and later historians seem to either believe that the young Emperor had exhausted his health with the excesses of his sexual life and his heavy drinking, or suspect Empress Theophano (c. 941–after 976), his wife, of poisoning him. Theophano had already at the time gained a reputation as an intelligent and ambitious woman. She would later gain a reputation for ruthlessness in achieving her goals. Romanos had, before his death, already crowned as co-emperors his two sons Basil II and Constantine VIII. At the time, however, Basil was five years old and Constantine only three years old, and they were not able to assume the duties that came with their title. Theophano was named regent. is the 74th day of the year (75th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Events Holy Roman Emperor Otto I defeats Mieszko I of Poland, compels him to pay tribute Luxembourg is founded, and the Belgium area becomes part of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. ... Theophano was a Byzantine empress. ... Painting of Basil II, from an 11th century manuscript. ... Constantine VIII (in Greek Konstantinos VIII, written Κωνσταντίνος Η) (960 – November 15, 1028), Byzantine emperor (December 15, 1025 – November 15, 1028) was the son of the Emperor Romanus II and the younger brother of the eminent Basil II, who died childless and thus left the rule of the Byzantine Empire...

But Theophano was not allowed to rule alone. Joseph Bringas, the eunuch palace official who had become Romanos' chief councillor, maintained his position. According to contemporary sources he intended to keep authority in his own hands, rather than those of the young Empress. He also tried to reduce the power of Nikephoros Phokas. The victorious general had been accepted as the actual commander of the army and maintained his strong connections to the aristocracy. Joseph was afraid that Nikephoros could claim the throne with the support of both the army and the aristocracy. Joseph's intrigues during the following months turned both Theophano and Nikephoros against him. Unknown to Joseph, Nikephoros was urged to seize the throne by his nephew John Tzimiskes and entered into negotiations with Theophano. European illustration of a Eunuch (1749) Chief Eunuch of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the Imperial Palace, 1912. ... Ioannes, protected by God and the Virgin Mary. ...

With the help of Theophano and the patriarch, Nikephoros Phokas received supreme command of the eastern forces and, after being proclaimed emperor by them on July 2, 963, he marched upon the capital, where meanwhile his partisans had overthrown his enemy Bringas. Thanks to his popularity with the army, Nikephoros II Phokas was crowned emperor by the side of Romanus's young sons on August 16, 963, and in spite of the patriarch's opposition married their mother, the regent Theophano. is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Events Holy Roman Emperor Otto I defeats Mieszko I of Poland, compels him to pay tribute Luxembourg is founded, and the Belgium area becomes part of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. ... is the 228th day of the year (229th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Events Holy Roman Emperor Otto I defeats Mieszko I of Poland, compels him to pay tribute Luxembourg is founded, and the Belgium area becomes part of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. ...

Later campaigns

During his reign Nikephoros II Phokas continued to wage numerous wars. From 964–966 he conquered Cilicia and again overran Mesopotamia and Syria, while the patrician Niketas recovered Cyprus. In 968 he reduced most of the fortresses in Syria, and after the fall of Antioch and Aleppo in 969, which were recaptured by his lieutenants, he secured his conquests by a peace treaty. On his northern frontier he began a war against Bulgaria in 967, to which the Byzantines had been paying tribute. Nikephoros revoked the tribute and instigated (with 15,000 pounds of gold) Prince Sviatoslav I of Kiev to attack Bulgaria, which he did so effectively, that Nikephoros ended up renewing the alliance with Bulgaria and turning against his own Kievan ally. Mesopotamia was a cradle of civilization geographically located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq. ... Sviatoslavs meeting with Emperor John by Klavdiy Lebedev, an attempt to visualise Leo the Deacons description of Sviatoslav Sviatoslav I of Kiev (East Slavic: Святослав Игоревич) (c. ... Trydent of Yaroslav I Map of the Kievan Rus′, 11th century Capital Kiev Religion Orthodox Christianity Government Monarchy Historical era Middle Ages  - Established 9th century  - Disestablished 12th century Currency Hryvnia Kievan Rus′ was the early, predominantly East Slavic[1] medieval state of Rurikid dynasty dominated by the city of Kiev...

At right, Nikephoros II and his stepson Basil II.

Nikephoros II was less successful in his western wars. After renouncing his payments of tribute to the Fatimid caliphs, he sent an expedition to Sicily under Niketas (964–965), but was forced by defeats on land and sea to evacuate that island completely. In 967 he made peace with the Fatimids of Kairawan and turned to defend himself against their common enemy, Otto I, who had proclaimed himself Western emperor and attacked the Byzantine possessions in Italy; but after some initial successes his generals were defeated and driven back to the southern coast. The tension between East and West that resulted from Nikephoros' policies can be glimpsed from Bishop Liutprand of Cremona's very unflattering description of him and his court in his Relatio de legatione Constantinopolitana. Image File history File links Nicephorus II, Phocas, with Basil II. 963-969 AD. AV Solidus (now the Histamenon Nomisma) (4. ... Image File history File links Nicephorus II, Phocas, with Basil II. 963-969 AD. AV Solidus (now the Histamenon Nomisma) (4. ... The Fatimids, Fatimid Caliphate or al-FātimiyyÅ«n (Arabic الفاطميون) is the Shia dynasty that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Egypt, and the Levant from 5 January 910 to 1171. ... For main article see: Caliphate The Caliph (pronounced khaleef in Arabic) is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the leader of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Sharia. ... Sicily ( in Italian and Sicilian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,708 km² (9,926 sq. ... Kairouan (Kairwan, Al Qayrawan) is a city in Tunisia, about 160 kilometres south of Tunis. ... Liutprand (Liudprand, Luitprand) (c. ...


Liutprand's description of Nikephoros was clouded by the fact that he was ill-treated while on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople. Nikephoros, a man of war, was not good at diplomacy. To add insult to injury Pope John XIII sent a letter to Nikephoras while Liutprand was in Constantinople calling Otto I emperor of Rome and even more insultingly referring to Nikephoros merely as emperor of the Greeks. Liutprand failed in his goal of getting an imperial princess for the wife of Otto's young son, the future emperor Otto II. John XIII (died September 6, 972) served as Pope from October 1st, 965 until his death in 972. ... Otto II ( 955 – December 7, 983, Rome), was the third German ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty. ...

Civil administration

Owing to the care which he lavished upon the proper maintenance of the army, Nikephoros II was compelled to exercise rigid economy in other departments. He retrenched the court largesses and curtailed the immunities of the clergy, and although himself of an ascetic disposition forbade the foundation of new monasteries. By his heavy imposts and the debasement of the coinage he forfeited his popularity with the people and gave rise to riots. Last of all, he was forsaken by his wife, and, in consequence of a conspiracy which she headed with his nephew and her lover John Tzimiskes, was assassinated in his sleeping apartment. Following his death, the Phokades family broke into insurrection under Nikephoros' nephew Bardas Phokas, but their revolt was promptly subdued. Nikephoros was the author of an extant treatise on military tactics, most famously the Praecepta Militaria which contains valuable information concerning the art of war in his time, and the less-known De velitatione, which concerned guerilla-like tactics for defence against a superior enemy invasion force. Nikephoros was also a very devout man, and helped his friend, the monk Athanasios, found the monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos. The word ascetic derives from the ancient Greek term askesis (practice, training or exercise). ... Monastery of St. ... Anastasius 40 nummi and 5 nummi Byzantine currency, money used in the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the West, consisted of mainly two types of coins: the gold solidus and a variety of clearly valued bronze coins. ... Ioannes, protected by God and the Virgin Mary. ... Assassin and Assassins redirect here. ... Bardas Phocas - Vardas Phokas was an eminent Byzantine general of Armenian origine who took a conspicuous part in three revolts pro and contra the ruling Macedonian dynasty. ... Russian icon of St. ... The Monastery of Great Lavra was built by the monk Athanasius of Trebizond with funds from Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas who intended to abdicate his throne and become a monk when he was assassinated in 969. ... Capital Karyes Official languages Koine Greek, Church Slavonic, Modern Greek, Russian, Serbian, Georgian, Bulgarian, Romanian (both liturgical and civil use), Modern Greek (civil use) Government  -  Head of State2 Dora Bakoyannis  -  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Area  -  Total 390 km²  150 sq mi  Population  -   estimate 2,250  Demonyms: Athonite, Hagiorite (English); Αθωνίτης, Αγιορίτης (Greek). ...

Contemporary Descriptions

In Bishop Liutprand's description of Nikephoros, he contemptuously recalls a man of short stature and the colouring of a "Ethiopian". He was indeed short, stout and "distinctly swarthy" but there are differences concerning the emperor's hair. Bishop Liutprand describes it as being short, whereas Leo The Deacon says it was black with "tight curls" and "unusually long". Historians believe Leo's description is more accurate. Liutprand (Liudprand, Luitprand) (c. ... Leo the Deacon was a Byzantine historian and chronicler. ...


By his first marriage to an unnamed Maleina, Nikephoros II Phokas had a son:

  • Bardas Phokas, who died before 969.

By his second marriage to Empress Theophano, Nikephoros II had no children.


With unrest mounting around him, his second wife Theophano took as her lover the soldier John Tzimiskes. Theophano and Tzimiskes would meet in secret and plot Nikephoros' death. Eventually the plot grew to include others. On a blustery night, the conspirators went into the palace dressed as women. Nikephoros was warned that assassins were in the palace, but he paid it no mind. Later, when he was asleep, Tzimiskes and the others sneaked into his bed chamber, alarmed at first to find the bed empty (Nikephoros frequently slept on the floor). Aroused by the noise, Nikephoros rose just when one of the assassins swung his sword in an attempt to decapitate him. It struck him in the face. He was then dragged to the foot of the bed, where Tzimiskes sat. Tzimiskes then shouted accusations to him while ripping off handfuls of his beard. Then, the others had their turn, one knocked his teeth out. His head was cut off and paraded on a spike, while his body was thrown out the window. He was buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles, while John Tzimiskes became Emperor John I. An inscription carved on the side of his tomb reads: "You conquered all but a woman". Theophanu (956 - 991) (also known as Theophano) was born in Constantinople, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Romanus II and Theophanu. ... The Church of the Holy Apostles (Greek: Aghioi Apostoloi), also known as the Imperial Polyandreion, was a Christian basilica built in Constantinople (then the capital of the Byzantine Empire) in 550 AD. It was second only to the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) among the great churches of...


It is claimed that at some period (perhaps after the assassination of Nikephoros II, or with the Latin invasion of Constantinople), the Phokas family moved to the island of Paxi. Today the name is quite common on the island, yet no one has any dynastic claims. Furthermore, some historians claim that a family's branch moved to the area of Mani, building castles and organizing the community. Today the Kavalierakis (Phokas) family is considered to be the descendants of this historic family, which had many heroes during the ages. In Lebanon, the family of Phocas became Nakfour. The Nakfour family originally settled in Hasbaya, a town in south Lebanon, and later on in Deirmimas, also a town in south Lebanon. [1] Belligerents Crusaders Holy Roman Empire Republic of Venice Montferret Champagne Blois Amiens ÃŽle-de-France Saint-Pol Burgundy Flanders Balkans Byzantine Empire Kingdom of Hungary Croatia Dalmatia Commanders Otto IV Boniface I Theobald I Lois I Alexios V Doukas Isaac II Angelos Alexios III Angelos Emeric I The Fourth Crusade... The natural port of Gaios, created by the islet Pontikonisi (center) resembles a fjord. ... Map of Greece highlighting the Mani peninsula. ...

Modern honors

On November 19, 2004, the Hellenic Navy named its tenth Kortenaer class frigate in his honour as F-466 Nikiforos Fokas (formerly HMNLS Bloys Van Treslong F 824). Also, in the Rethymno Prefecture in Crete, a municipality (Nikiforos Fokas) is named after him, as are many streets throughout Greece. is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Hellenic Navy (Greek: , Polemikón Nautikón) is the naval force of the modern nation of Greece (Hellenic Republic). ... HNLMS Kortenaer. ... Rethymno (IPA ) (Greek Ρέθυμνο) is a prefecture in the island of Crete, Greece. ... For other uses, see Crete (disambiguation). ... Nikiforos Fokas (Greek: Νικηφόρος Φωκάς) is a municipality in the Rethymno Prefecture, Crete, Greece, named after the 10th century Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II. Population 6,599 (2001). ...

External links

  • Media related to Nicephorus II from the Wikimedia Commons.
  • A more detailed profile of the Emperor
  • Nicephorean coinage

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ...


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • [Norwich, John] (1989). Byzantium: The Apogee. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN http://www.amazon.com/Byzantium-Centuries-John-Julius-Norwich/dp/0394537785. 

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (often abbreviated to ODB) is a three volume book by the Oxford University Press. ... Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

External Links

  • Greek Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes
Nikephoros II
Born: c. 912 Died: 969
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Basil II
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
John I



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